Why I DOWNGRADED from OM-D E-M5 to Panasonic GF2

Started Apr 18, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Loga Senior Member • Posts: 1,634
Why I DOWNGRADED from OM-D E-M5 to Panasonic GF2

Everything I write down here is fully personal experience, based on my own perception, and evaluated on my personal preferences. No scientific approach here, and no offense to anyone or at anything. Just my story within the m4/3 family, and how I learned my true needs finally. Maybe it will be instructive for some.

It may sound weird, but it's true: after more than a year we broke up with my OM-D E-M5, and I went back to my ex, Panasonic GF2. Our relationship with OM-D was never really happy: after the first wow-effect in some areas where it exeeds the Panasonic GF2, I felt more and more frustrated. I don't want to tell anybody, that the OM-D is not capable to produce excellent results. We can see on the Internet it obviously is. I just want to say: it was not The One for me. In this post I want to reveal the reasons from my own perspective.

In the following text when I write 'OM-D' it refers to the E-M5, and when I write 'Panasonic' it mostly refers to the GF2 (sometimes to the company).

To be honest, I never really wanted to upgrade from my GF2 to an OM-D or anything else: I was really happy with what I had. There were only two things I missed from GF2: the EVF and a better high ISO. But I could live without both, and as for a hobbyst, my little Pana worked perfectly to me. But finally I got some unexpected money, and because the hype and the marketing was really strong, and yes, the OM-D E-M5 looks sexy, in a weak moment I said yes, and bought it.

Let's see, why I felt disappointed during the time I was having it:

1. The low light AF performance was worse than the one in the GF2. I felt it immediately after started to use it in my room in dim light. While the GF2 almost never hunted among these cirtumstances, I felt the OM-D unsure, and I saw it hunting frequently. It was usable, it was acceptable, but it was weaker than the (old!) Panasonic implementation. Maybe the OM-D had the quickest AF in the world that time as they claimed (however, in daylight the GF2 showed very similar performance), but in low light, it simply lose the battle.

2. The second disappointment was the EM-5's touchscreen, when reviewing a picture. It was sluggish, when I magnified and panned using my fingertip. Now I know why it is: in replay mode the OM-D shows a (much) more detailed version of the image than the Panasonic. So you can check sharpness with OM-D more precisely. Maybe that's good, yeah. But it ruined the user experience for me, so even if I can't check sharpness that precisely, I prefer the snappy operation of the GF2's implementation.

3. The user experience. A lot of users wrote about this before me, so I won't write it in detail. Just in short: menus, buttons, hump of EVF. The Panasonic UI is so intuitive, so quick – I never felt it is in the way of my photographic process. Even the startup time is better at GF2 no matter it started from sleep mode or turned off, and maybe it is responsiveness, not UE, but It affects the UE as well.

4. The sexiness of the OM-D. Yes, what attracted me at first, after a while started to become annoying. Everyone looked at my camera every time I took it out of my bag, no matter where I was. Maybe I should have bought the black version, because this silver looked too attractive. Of course when bought it I had some vision in my mind about my apperance with OM-D – silly, I know - but that's just the success of the marketing machine. In real life situations I did not feel myself stylish, I just felt that I have a jewellery, that everyone looks at. Of course it is fully personal and is regarded with one's personality, but although I would not call myself introvert, I did not like this feeling. The GF2 has a fully functional look, it looks similar to the compact cameras, so it makes much less attraction. And I realised that like this. However, I wouldn't say that the GF2 does not look really good with, let's say, a 25 / 1.4.

5. And last but not least at all: the image quality. Shocking, isn't it? I know that this is the point where most of the readers will have an argument with me, but I write what I experienced and percieved.

So dare I say that the GF2 has better image quality, that the OM-D? In some cases, in some circumstances, yes, I dare. These circumstances mainly are at base ISO in good light without the need of extreme DR. Maybe I made a few mistakes the way I processed the OM-D's RAW files, but honestly, I wasn't thrilled by the jpegs out of the OM-D as well. I know that 'everyone' likes it, however, it seems I'm an exception. Let's see what I do not like. First of all, the colors. While the camera produces vibrant colors, I found I don't want vibrant colors by default. It is not really the saturation, but maybe the 'palette' Olympus uses. Maybe it is vibrant, and looks 'good' to some, but to my perception Panasonic's color has more to do with the reality I perceive. And if I want, I can tweak them to more vibrant easily. The other direction seemed more difficult to me.

The second one is the 'digital look' of OM-D's images, also mentioned a lot of people here. And this was that made me decide to sell the OM-D finally. And I think I found an explanation why this occurs. IMHO it is due to the contrasty rendering and the lack of smooth graduations. It makes the pictures flat in some circumstances, and the 3D feeling weakens. Yes, the pictures has more „punch”, but in the same time they still look flat to me. The lack of smooth graduation was a real problem for me when comes to portraits. I saw homogenous areas on faces all the time with definite borders without smooth graduations, as if the picture had a 'posterization' effect already. And I hated it. First I thougth it is just the incompatibility of the LR 3.4 with OM-D E-M5, but I saw the same phenomenon in jpegs too. Moreover: I saw it on others' pictures as well! It does exist at base ISO, and just getting worse as the ISO increases.

And that's lead to an other topic: the high ISO. First of all: Panasonic GF2's ISO numbers are not equivalent to the EM-5's. So when I say that GF2's ISO1600 is much worse than the E-M5's, then it comes into my mind that taking account other exposure settings I have to say that GF2's ISO1600 is more like an EM-5's ISO3200. The ISO3200 is still less noisy on EM-5 than ISO1600 on the GF2, however, I have the feeling that for less noise at high ISO engineers recently gave up some quality at low ISO's. What I said after a while was this: The OM-D's high ISO is not that bad at all, but its low ISO is not that good either. The picture quality changes really slowly as you go up to higher and higher level in ISOs. Not the GF2: it degrades much quicker, however, I have the feeling that at ISO100 it has cleaner, crisper results than the OM-D has. And it is also just a personal preference, but I like this much better. And even at high ISOs the GF2 shows less posterziation effect (it introduces some, but really not disturbing), however shows more (and harder) noise.

Huh, it became long, but that's the whole story. Now let's see where the OM-D surpasses the old GF2 effortlessly IMHO:

1. It has EVF. In strong light, this is really useful of course. GF2 is only compatibile with LVF1 which, as I read, is surely useable, but might not provide a very good user experience.

2. The flipping LCD. Sometimes it is just more comfortable, but sometimes it lets me to take pictures I had less chance without it.

3. The in-body stabilization. It is a good thing to have, and let you to take better pictures (at lower ISO) or pictures needed tripod anyway. It offers higher keeper rate with unstabilized lens as well. GF2 needs a better holding technique.

4. Shutter sound. Yes, it is sexy too And quieter than the one coming from the GF2. However, still too loud to make a difference in real life. The absolutely muted electronic shutter makes the difference IMHO.

5. Low light performance. As I mentioned before, of course, the OM-D has better low-light performance at really high ISOs. However, I feel that it is on the price of less clear, less crisp base ISO.

So, what is my conclusion? I bought a used GF2 at 1/15 the price I bought my OM-D (and 1/7 of a used OM-D right now), and I take better pictures because I enjoy using it more. I learned my needs better, and I found that the Panasonic way, and my old GF2 was a better tool for me. I learned that I am not that interested in extreme high ISO-s: the old 12mp sensor is very capable up to ISO400, but also at 1600 it is useable. I have some really nice primes with low f-stops, they handle the situations. With the right exposure settings I rarely have to go above ISO800. Now I make a little better pictures at high ISOs than I made when I had GF2 once, because my post processing skills has also improved. In the same time, I found the GF2's base iso cleaner than the OM-D's. Not to mention the smoother gratuations, which turned out to be essential for me.

So in the end I realized that a much more expensive gear won't automatically fits to me better! Just reading reviews won't let me find out whether the ergonomic and the user experience of a certain tool fits to me or not. And it really takes time to find out. It seems also true that while older m43 cameras are very capable, new ones aren't magic weapons too.

I am really curious whether I would be happy with a Panasonic GX7: with its base ISO, with its graduation smoothness, and overall usability. But I realized, that right now I don't have any reasons to put money into a new body. I hope my used GF2 will last long.

Thanks for reading!


 Loga's gear list:Loga's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 +3 more
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2
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